Children's Monitor Online
A Public Policy Update from the Child Welfare League of America

   
   
Vol. 19, Issue 44: 11/6/2006   
Headlines

Tuesday November 7 is Election Day! Don't forget to vote!

Advance the 5-Point Congressional Platform!

New Studies Examine Why 46.1 Million Americans Are Uninsured

CWLA Comments on Medicaid Rules Incorporated into Court Case

Key Committees Will Change Regardless of Election Results

Senators Ask GAO for Closer Look at Welfare Changes

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Tuesday November 7 is Election Day! Don't forget to vote!

Tuesday November 7 is Election Day! Don't forget to vote!

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Advance the 5-Point Congressional Platform!

Join CWLA in this initiative to engage Members of Congress to can make a difference in children's lives. Urge U.S. Senators and Representatives to support the 5-Point Platform and help Make Children a National Priority in 2006!

The five points in the platform will help protect children who are abused and neglected and help prevent abuse. Included in the platform are specific, concrete issues federal legislators can and should support to protect the nearly 900,000 children abused and neglected each year. The five points of the platform represent specific legislative actions every member of the House and Senate should support. To find out more go to www.cwla.org/advocacy/5pt.htm.

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New Studies Examine Why 46.1 Million Americans Are Uninsured

CWLA staff attended a briefing October 19 examining recent national trends in health insurance coverage. The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, and the Alliance for Health Reform, sponsored the briefing, which included analyses on the increasing number of uninsured in 2005, including children. This increase comes despite an improved national employment picture and increased growth in the Gross Domestic Product, which normally are associated with improved health insurance coverage.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported recently the number of nonelderly uninsured Americans had increased in 2005 by another 1.3 million people--for a total of 46.1 million uninsured people--continuing an upward trend that began in 2000. As was the case in previous years, most of the increase in the uninsured was among adults. Briefing papers issued at the event concluded that over the first five years of this decade the rate of employee-sponsored insurance (ESI) declined significantly.

Even as the economy strengthened over the past few years, the ESI rate continued to decline, primarily due to faster growth in health care premiums than in wages and incomes. In addition, other shifts in demographic factors and employment patterns, such as the shift toward work in smaller firms and increased work in industries less likely to offer ESI, suggest the pattern of declining ESI and growing rates of uninsurance are not likely to change in the near future.

The number of uninsured children declined between 2000 and 2004, largely due to increases in coverage under Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which offset the ESI decline. By 2005, however, the number of uninsured children rose because increases in Medicaid/SCHIP coverage no longer fully compensated for the decline in ESI as it had in earlier years. These findings clearly have significant policy implications for the debate expected in next year's Congress over SCHIP reauthorization, as they seem to stress the importance of continued expansion of Medicaid and SCHIP coverage for children.

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CWLA Comments on Medicaid Rules Incorporated into Court Case

CWLA has been working with attorneys on the Bell v. Leavitt court case, a class action case seeking injunctive and declaratory relief from federal regulations implementing the new Medicaid citizenship documentation requirements. On September 14, a federal judge indicated he was likely to issue an injunction that would prevent children eligible for Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance from being subject to the new Medicaid citizenship documentation requirements. At the time, the judge indicated there was a strong likelihood of success in obtaining an injunction on the merits of the case for foster children, and referred the case to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.

Currently, lawyers from the Shriver National Center on Poverty Law are working to obtain this injunction. They have incorporated CWLA's comments, which were submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, into a plaintiffs' memorandum to demonstrate irreparable harm and to obtain the injunction for Title IV-E eligible children.

A copy of the plaintiffs' memo, with CWLA's comments, is online.

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Key Committees Will Change Regardless of Election Results

The two congressional committees with the greatest oversight over child welfare issues--the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee--will have at least some member turnover regardless of Tuesday's election results. The Ways and Means Committee now has a Republican majority of 24 members to 17 Democratic members. Committee Chair Bill Thomas (R-CA) announced earlier this year he would not be returning to Congress, so there will be a new chair in 2007. Among Republicans, the next highest members in seniority are Representatives E. Clay Shaw (FL), Nancy Johnson (CT), Wally Herger (CA), and Jim McCrery (LA). The Republican leadership has sometimes bypassed the seniority system and selected someone with fewer years to take over committee chairs. On the Democratic side, Representative Charles Rangel (NY) is the highest ranking member and would take over the chair if the election results change control of the House.

In addition to the departure of Thomas, the Committee will also lose Representative Jim Nussle (R-IA), who is running for Governor in Iowa; Representative Mark Foley (R-FL), who resigned over his interaction with House pages; and Representative Bob Beauprez (R-CO), who is running for Governor in Colorado. On the Democratic side, Representative Ben Cardin (D-MD) is leaving the House and running for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by outgoing Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD).

Representative Wally Herger (R-CA) has chaired the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources, which has been the key subcommittee on child welfare issues. If Republicans follow past practice, he may step down as chair since he has now presided in that position for six years.

The picture for the Senate Finance Committee is less complex, as it has been closely divided even when control of the Senate has changed over the past six years. Currently, the committee has 11 Republicans and 8 Democrats, plus Independent Senator Jim Jeffords (VT) aligning with Democrats, for a total of 9. Both Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) and Jeffords are leaving the Senate, so the committee will have at least two vacancies. Currently Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) chairs that committee, and Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) is the ranking Democrat.

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Senators Ask GAO for Closer Look at Welfare Changes

Five Senators have asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to take a closer look at recent changes to the nation's cash assistance program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Senators Max Baucus (D-MT), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Thomas Carper (D-DE), and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) have asked GAO to look at the effect of recent changes in TANF when it was reauthorized as part of the Deficit Reduction Act, the budget cut package passed earlier this year. More information is available online.

The TANF reauthorization had the practical effect of increasing work requirements beyond what the original law set in 1996. At the same time, the reauthorization provided a small increase of $200 million in child care funding, raising the child care block grant from $4.8 billion to $5 billion--the level of funding set through the end of this decade. Snowe and Dodd had offered proposals that would have substantially increased child care funding. Snowe also expressed concern over how the new law would affect TANF's education components in her state of Maine.

The GAO response will not come until sometime next year in the new congress.

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CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

CWLA's Legislative Alerts provide breaking news, advocacy information, and critically important timely details of legislative battles. In an effort to broaden CWLA's advocacy network on behalf of children, anyone can now subscribe and receive the same information. This effort compliments CWLA's weekly electronic legislative newsletter, the Children's Monitor, which is also available free to any subscriber. We encourage you to register to receive these items directly and to pass on the information to other colleagues, family, and friends.

Subscribe to Legislative Alerts.

Subscribe to Children's Monitor.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

October 1: 2007 Federal Fiscal Year Began
November 7: Election Day
November 13: Congress Returns
November 17: Continuing Resolution Expires
January 3, 2007: First Session of 110th Congress Begins


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